The importance of developing intercultural communication competence

Along with the learning of a foreign language, no matter if it is English or any other, it is mandatory for the cultural competence to be built in classroom. In the modern world today, through the revolution in transportation and also in media sectors, experiences and exchanges between cultures has become a reality in our daily lives. In language education as I see it today, we need to integrate modules that can actually help us in a conversation with people from other cultures.

Being culturally aware helps us in approaching our interlocutor, in being more open and respectful towards him.  The ultimate goal of language education is no longer to achieve native speaker proficiency, but to build intercultural understanding and mediation through language learning. I already know a lot of foreign language teachers that have inclined their class activities towards the intercultural approach by studying literary texts or organizing cultural activities which promote tolerance and openness towards diversity.  Given that few learners achieve native speaker proficiency, the intercultural approach proposes the building of observation, explanation and mediation skills, as part of intercultural competence.

The importance of developing intercultural communication competence along with linguistic competence stems from students’ need to interact effectively with people from other cultures. In fact, what is considered appropriate in a single culture is usually inappropriate in the other. Language teachers recognize the need to include socio-cultural factors, so today, it is widely accepted that the literature used in the classroom can be an important environment for transmitting the culture of the target language. In fact, literature in English classes can provide a powerful tool in developing students’ language.

On the other hand, when we talk about short stories, students who learn English are experiencing a real sense of achievement when they are faced and manage to understand the literary content in the classroom. Studying English literature can provide an interesting and inspirational point of comparison with the literature of your own language.

Literature is part of the cultural heritage of any country and being able to read and understand it brings you a lot closer in both learning the language and also being more culturally aware. The use of short stories in English classes has been discussed many times because students consider stories as one of the most interesting literary species and teachers admit that they pose a challenge and stir the interest of students more than other genres do. The shape of the short stories makes them ideal for classroom discussions and readers of all levels can finish reading an interesting story during a class course. Perhaps the most valuable feature of all is the mere fact that novels allow students to interact with a variety of literary elements. I consider a challenge to make our students overcome the obstacles that makes studying literature discouraging at first when some issues related to lack of sufficient knowledge both in vocabulary and also in cultural background may determine them not to fully explore the universe of foreign literature.

Studying a number of short stories during classes, I was given the opportunity to see my cstudents evolve in the process of learning English through the perspective of cultural awareness accessed in short stories. The students managed to enrich their perspective on concepts like culture and cultural awareness. Along with this very important issue, the pupils acquired major features of short stories (openings / closings, character plot, twists), considerably improved their vocabulary and understood English language and how it works in short stories, also applied this knowledge in their use of language.

In conclusion, increasing cultural awareness through literature is a great opportunity for students to increase their knowledge of the world, with access to a variety of contexts that are inevitably linked to culture. Increasing cultural sensitivity will not only foster openness to diversity but also the capacity to understand and interact effectively with people from other parts of the world.

prof. Claudia Iulia Georgescu

Școala Gimnazială Nr.1 Slatina (Olt) , România
Profil iTeach:

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